9/11: God Didn’t Do It

Some people say of the Al Qaeda attacks of 9/11/01, “How could God do this?” God didn’t do it. God is not responsible for the evil that people do, not mine, not Bin Laden’s, not Bush/Cheney’s, not yours. Sure, He’s quoted in Isaiah 45:7 saying, “I create evil.” But Orthodox Christians usually don’t prooftext, but look at the larger Holy Tradition of Orthodoxy (including but not limited to Scripture…and the whole Scripture for that matter, not isolated 3-word phrases). In the assessment of the whole Tradition, people and demons are responsible for human-made evil. God allows us – gives us – free will because He loves us and wouldn’t impose goodness on any of us, because then we’d be unwilling slaves, automatons, not beloved sons and daughters and friends and co-workers of Him. One of the aspects usually considered to be part of “the image of God” in which humans as a species are created is free will, the ability to choose good or evil. If we as a species didn’t have free will, we wouldn’t be in the image of God, we’d be some lesser animal. God then allows evil, but works infinitely hard to bring good out of it, without, again, thwarting human free will. Has any good manifested yet from 9/11? I wouldn’t care to say. But it will, if we let it, and if we work for it.

Bin Laden and the executors of 9/11 are said to have thought they were fighting for God and His cause…or at least Allah. (I’ll leave to better minds the question of whether Allah is real, is any god or demon, or the God of the Old and New Testament Church, the Orthodox Church, i.e., the Most Holy and Consubstantial Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Muslims deny the Trinity, as do those Jews who have not embraced Christianity, and even some supposed Christians.) Can people who don’t rightly believe in God “fight” for Him? Of course, adherents of Judaism and non-Orthodox Christians don’t rightly believe in Him either, and they’ve done lots of fighting purporting to be for Him. Orthodox have too, but not nearly so much as non-Orthodox Christians: just compare the histories of Orthodox and Heterodox Europe. The truth is, the True God would not be fought for, that’s why He sent Apostles to the nations rather than rampaging armies. Martyrs, starting with Himself. (No, killing yourself isn’t martyrdom, it’s suicide, always a sin in Orthodoxy.) God’s method is the word and life of the Orthodox Church, not the sword, the gun, the bulldozer, the tank, or the bomb. Orthodoxy is not a ‘peace sect’ because it concedes that governments war, even purportedly Orthodox ones, and sometimes it has blessed military defense of innocents and the Faithful – but not, authoritatively, aggression. For most of its history the Orthodox Church had a rule that banned from Communion for several years those who had shed blood even in defense, and its monastics and clergy are categorically forbidden to do so, upholding the imperative of the Gospel. The ranks of recognized Orthodox Saints are filled with ex-soldiers and ex-rulers (or ex would-be rulers, like the traditional kinsmen of mine, the Passion-bearers St. Boris and St. Gleb of Russia – how many Russians have borne Boris’ name in the last thousand years!) who turned from violence, many of whom even laid down their lives for the Gospel ideal (i.e., were slain by others). And just for the record, “ethnic cleansing” is unfaithful to Orthodoxy. But to be fair, “Balkanization,” beginning in the 1800s, was empowered by Britain and France, first to dismantle the Ottoman Empire in their favor.

In short, most, if not all, who say they’re killing for God, are liars, whether they know it or not. Has “religion” caused so much war in human history? Orthodoxy claims to be the cure for religion, a pathology blamed by the late Fr. John Romanides on an atrophied human nous. Though not all Orthodox have been cured yet, including me, by the mercy of God Orthodoxy’s war record pales in comparison to those of Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, and the ancients. Orthodoxy has certainly suffered far more casualties than it has inflicted throughout history. Look at the 20th century alone! At its beginning a Russian bishop even said most Russian soldiers don’t go on the battlefield to kill, but to die for their country; by contrast there’s the Western quote, “Your job isn’t to die for your country, it’s to make the other poor b—— die for his country.”

In conclusion, sometimes the good that God brings out of evil is repentance.


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